David Pudlin is the longtime president and CEO of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller, a Philadelphia-based firm that also has offices in Harrisburg and Norristown, Pennsylvania, and Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
How big is your firm, where is it located and what are its primary areas of practice and focus?
Hangley Aronchick has 48 attorneys in commercial litigation, including antitrust and insurance law, environmental, family law, real estate, corporate, tax and estate planning.
Please explain your firm’s governance structure and compensation model.
We have an eight-person board elected by our shareholders, with a president/CEO who manages the firm on an ongoing basis. The compensation is based upon a percentage system, with the percentages set at the beginning of the year based upon three-year averages of several factors, with a small (no more than 4 percent of income) discretionary bonus distributed at year-end to shareholders who performed disproportionately well that year.
What do you view as the two biggest opportunities for your firm, and what are the two biggest threats?
A big opportunity is attracting terrific lateral shareholders with portable business who are attracted to a high-quality practice in a smaller setting, and expansion of commercial litigation practice. I would call them challenges and not threats, but having the more junior shareholders replace the business that the more senior shareholders have been generating, and addressing the lifestyle demands of the younger attorneys in a very competitive environment.
After the recession hit, the prevailing theory was that midsize firms would start to see more work come their way from large clients who could no longer justify paying Big Law rates. What has been your experience?
To some extent.
Are your clients pushing for more alternative fee arrangements, and if so what types? Is your firm amenable to those requests?
Absolutely and yes we are. Blended rates and percentage discounts seem to be the most requested.
There is much debate around how law firms can foster the next generation of legal talent. What advantages and disadvantages do midsize firms have in attracting and retaining young lawyers, particularly millennials?
We always have focused on life outside the firm, and also on providing a real opportunity for associates to become shareholders in our firm. Those are advantages we have. We never have had a hard time attracting and retaining younger lawyers, so I cannot think of any disadvantages.
Does your firm employ any nonlawyer professionals in high-level positions (e.g. COO, business development officer, chief strategy officer, etc.)? If so, why is it advantageous to have a nonlawyer in that role? If not, have you considered hiring any?
We have an administrator, a CFO, a head IT person and an in-house marketing person, but most firms do also.
What if any technology advancements have you made in your firm in recent years? What are the challenges in implementing tech changes?
We have made many, but the most recent push is in the area of cybersecurity.
What would you say is the most innovative thing your firm has done recently, whether it be internal operations, how you work with clients, etc.?
Our new website, which is interactive and very state of the art.
Does your firm have a succession plan in place? If so, what challenges do you face in trying to execute that plan? If you don’t currently have a plan, is it an issue your firm is thinking about?
No, but we need one sooner rather than later. Yes, I think about it and have for a while, but I cannot get my colleagues excited about, or focused on, it.